Barrasso to pass on Senate GOP leader run

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso will pass on a bid for GOP leader in the next Congress, instead pursuing the No. 2 job of party whip.

Barrasso, who is currently the No. 3 Senate Republican, is informing colleagues of his plans, according to a person familiar with his interactions who was granted anonymity to speak candidly. Barrasso’s office declined to comment.

In a letter to his colleagues, Barrasso said the Senate GOP needs to “break from where we are now” and said he would pursue more transparency if chosen as the GOP No. 2. Barrasso also spoke with former President Donald Trump on Tuesday morning about his decision to run for whip, according to a second person familiar with the call who was also granted anonymity to speak candidly.

His decision narrows the GOP leadership race down to Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) — for now, at least. Thune is the current whip and Cornyn previously served for six years as whip , but both are term-limited out of the job.

That opens the door for Barrasso to more easily win the post, which is central to the daily floor action of the Senate. It also comes with a security detail and prime office space in the Capitol building.

Barrasso had been in the mix for the leader job, but Republicans can only pursue one position in the party leadership at a time, making it more risky to for him to try and succeed departing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and comparatively less challenging to become whip.

Barrasso is also term-limited out of the conference chair job, and his bid for whip opens up the No. 3 position. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) confirmed to Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that he’s pursuing the position.

“I’ve had several colleagues encourage me to run for conference chair,” the Arkansas Republican said. “Everyone needs to focus primarily on all the Senate elections and the race for the White House to ensure we’re electing a majority leader and not a minority leader.”

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who currently occupies the No. 4 spot of Republican Policy Committee chair, has not made a decision on whether she will stay put or pursue another leadership office.

Punchbowl News first reported Barrasso’s official decision. POLITICO reported on Friday that Barrasso and Cotton were respectively eyeing the No. 2 and No. 3 jobs.

Anthony Adragna contributed to this report.

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